A year in Indonesia lets me reflect on missionary work in this country. In Indonesia, I'm still impressed by the kindness and warmth of the inhabitants. All the time I meet with new people. Of course, most Indonesians are Muslims, but I meet mainly with Catholics. These meetings are diverse - from meetings with SVDs and sisters from various religious congregations, through meetings with colleagues from the Indonesian language course, as well as with random Indonesian people.
I lived in Java for the last three months, where I was learning the official language - bahasa Indonesia. I traveled a lot from Jogjakarta, to Surabaya, to Malang, to Jakarta and even to Batam. Friendly people accompanied me everywhere. Because Indonesian is by nature very open and willing to make contact with the newcomer. Moreover, if this person is a white missionary and a priest. Then the foreigner is treated like a king. Many people want to take a picture and to talk a little bit.
In Jogjakarta I met mainly with students and teachers because there are many universities. I made new friends among religious people from various islands of Indonesia, but mainly from the eastern part of Indonesia. I also met with nuns and teachers. I was often invited to celebrate the Eucharist in monasteries. In addition I visited the Indonesian families where I could learn more about Asian culture and cuisine.
All meetings with people remain in my memory and heart. Because I experienced kindness, support, and help from many people whom I met first time in my life. There were lots of such meetings. For instance: in Jakarta I have so many friends from the SVD parish that whenever I go there, I am welcome and invited for a dinner. Similarly, in Surabaya, where I knew the parents of our SVD missionary to Madagascar. I have new friends also in Batam - in the northern part of Indonesia, not far from the Singapore border.
I'm slowly settling in Indonesia, specifically on the island of Flores in the eastern part of the country. Via Internet I can communicate with all my friends. I often assure them of my prayer and I ask for their prayer. We all need a good relationship, as well as assurance that we are accepted and welcome. Indonesian people are very positive and open minded so you can feel here at home. Of course, establishing relationships is a long process. We are learning each other all the time. Indonesians need relationships with people from Europe, and Europeans need relationships with the Asian culture. All of us should be grateful to the heavenly Father who allows us to meet and enrich each other through such meetings.
Prayers of SVD
May the darkness of sin
and the night of unbelief vanish before the light of the Word
and the Spirit of grace
and may the Heart of Jesus live
in the hearts of all people.
(Saint Arnold Janssen)